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Session Descriptions


Morning Sessions

Declaring Our Erotic Jen Cross

How can erotic writing be transformative practice? What if more of us had full access to our erotic language and sexual expression? Gather with other writers to create a space in which we struggle with, celebrate and reclaim the intricacies of our desire. In this session, we’ll try out some explicit writing, and consider the possibilities of a more creative relationship with such things as sexual identity, body image, sexual desire, sexual practice, and more.

Paths to Publishing Pamela Manché Pearce & Marian Calabro

This session will help you and your group members better understand how to prepare work, offer it to online or traditional publishers, and/or pursue self-publication. Pamela Manché Pearce has recently had poetry published in literary magazines in print and online. Her published work also includes stories, essays, and reviews. She’ll share guidance learned from a publication coach and in workshops, as well as her recordkeeping method. Marian Calabro, a mainstream publishing veteran, will focus on book-length work. She will briefly discuss traditional publishing but will concentrate on self-publishing and print-on-demand, using a variety of books as examples. There will be plenty of time for Q&A.

So, You Want to Earn (at least part of) Your Living Leading Writing Workshops? Patricia Lee Lewis

Through writing together and Patricia’s guidance, we will discuss ways to support our writing lives, including work in community-based, travel and virtual writing communities. These include entrepreneurial ventures in teaching and mentoring, editing/coaching services, workshops and retreats, and community engagement projects. We will focus on how to start and keep your business growing and thriving, and we will explore ideas and strategies for living and enriching the writing life—your own and others.

Workshops with Writers Under 18 Lynn Bowmaster & Peggy Simmons

Lynn will share the story of how she began to lead workshops for young people out of her home 14 years ago and how she built her effort into a regular program that now holds separate workshop series 4 days per week for young writers ages 9-18 as well as a summer houseboat writing program. Lynn will address the main components which have built these workshops – safety of space, appropriate prompts, bonding of the group through prompts and social time, a commitment to fun, and careful time management. She will go over a “hit parade” of prompts which work and why, and will lead participants through the beginning of a couple of writing sessions. She is happy to address marketing the workshops, either in presentation or questions.

Peggy will share her successes and failures partnering with youth organizations in San Francisco and Oakland to be able to offer creative writing workshops for teenagers who have the least support or opportunity for their creativity. She can also share the pros and cons of her decision to not try to earn her living through her writing workshops or the fiscally sponsored non-profit program she founded and directs. She looks forward to your questions.


Afternoon Sessions

Workshops for the Incarcerated Karen Buchinsky, Sue Reynolds, & Joanne Turnbull

This panel will be led by three writers who work with people who are, or have been, incarcerated: men who run a hospice in a maximum security prison, women and girls in a medium security prison and also in a maximum security jail, formerly incarcerated women, and women on work release who are able to read their work in university classes and other community venues. The session will focus on establishing trust with the writers, writers’ engagement with the AWA method, challenges, accomplishments, and lessons learned.

The AWA Method is not Therapy But it is Healing: The Science Behind the Art Genvieve Chandler

We have all participated in workshops that we know are healing. But how does writing heal? What does the research tell us? Learn about the evidence that supports the transformational miracle of the AWA method. Studies conducted in homeless shelters, community neighborhoods, a university, vocational school, and with students in a drop out recovery program indicate the power of AWA to support strengths, manage emotions, increase self-efficacy to build resilience. You know the experience of the art, come and learn the facts about the science.

Manuscript Response Using the AWA Method Patricia Bender & Margaret O'Brien

One of the most satisfying periods of an AWA writing workshop is the time devoted to manuscript response. A manuscript is writing that has been developed from the First Draft stage, but is by no means a finished piece of writing. It’s at a stage where the writer will benefit from other readers and in an AWA workshop there is a readily available panel of readers. This is where Pat Schneider’s affirmation, ‘The teaching of craft can be done without damage to a writer’s original voice or artistic self-esteem’, is seriously put into practice under the guidance of the workshop leader. Together we will consider how the AWA approach differs from most traditional workshop processes, and we will explore the craft of writing, as well as our own strengths and challenges with this process. Can responding be fun as well as instructive? Can this work enrich your relationship with your workshop participants and enrich your own writing practice? Will you be a generous and patient editor? Join Patricia Bender and Margaret O'Brien and learn why they say ‘YES’ to all these questions. They are very interested in what you will have to say too. Welcome..

Writing Workshop Focus on Fiction Craft Joan Marie Wood & Alison Barker

Join Joan Marie Wood and Alison Barker for a discussion about how the AWA method is used to explore craft in fiction. What is craft? How do we incorporate elements such as point of view, character development and dialogue into the exercises we offer? In this session we will write together in response to such prompts and share our experiences and questions as writers and workshop leaders.



Morning Sessions

Writing Workshop Focus on Poetry Craft"Pat Schneider

This session is open only to paid Affiliates.

This will be a "Poetry Party," demonstrating for workshop leaders techniques and prompts to playfully but seriously introduce workshop participants to both the fun and the intense power of writing poems. Participants will be led through exercises that are modeled on well-known poems, beginning with very easy, simple forms and increasing in complexity. The purpose is twofold: (1) to "trick, cajole, tempt and playfully assist" writers who think they can't write poems to experience doing it, and (2) to encourage working poets to broaden their repertoire of forms and their purposes in writing poems.

Building & Sustaining a Non-ProfitMary Tuchscherer & Aaron Zimmerman

As we all know, the AWA workshop method is a powerful tool of self-expression, authenticity, and empowerment. Through group discussion and writing exercises, this session will explore harnessing the power of AWA in social justice/social service settings. We will share some of the successes, challenges, inspirations, and histories of our programs, help attendees get in touch with the social issues that are most important to them, and provide some straightforward nut-and-bolts tips about forming and operating a non-profit organization. 

Guiding Writers to Develop Short Pieces into Larger WorkCatherine M. Wallace

The writing we do in workshops are like mosaic pieces slowly accumulating on hard drives and in spiral notebooks. Over time, these pieces start calling to us, demanding assembly into some kind of whole. But what?  And how? Here are exercises you can bring home to your own group. Expect ample handouts and a dense, rich writing experience as we do these exercises ourselves, together, sharing just a little now and then.  Bring nothing with you but your implicit memories and a willingness to write nearly nonstop the whole time.  

Storytelling, Writing, and Myth: Distinctions and ConnectionsElise Rymer & Evie Preston

This workshop will include storytelling and writing segments as well as a brief preliminary free write about what the word “myth” brings to mind for each participant.

We’ve chosen to emphasize myth because its roots are in the creating and telling of stories. Once alphabets and print forms appeared on the scene, myths emerged in written forms as well. In this workshop, we hope myth can become a bridge between oral and written stories and help us draw out distinctions and similarities between written and oral expression, whether in the personal, social, folklore, saga or grand spiritual mythic forms that help some cultures define themselves.


Afternoon Sessions

Workshops for Veterans Suzanne Rancourt & Al Miller

Suzanne will bring her experience of writing with veterans to this session, speaking not only about the benefits of the AWA method, but the neuro-cognitive methods that emphasize the strengths and resources working in one's current life. Suzanne brings developmental and cognitive theories into the practical application of daily living. Specializing in the terrains of Traumatic Brain Injury, Post Traumatic Stress, and other significant life altering events, Suzanne will offer her approach to healing these deep wounds.

Open Mic

Want to raise your voice? Step out into the open? Share a poem or a page of prose? Do you want to be inspired by the voices around you? Join your fellow writers for an afternoon of reading and listening, of putting yourself forward and sitting back. The Open Mic Session will support your desire for a larger audience and reward your thirst to be entertained. You will participate in the varied and surprising voices that comprise AWA. 

Using the AWA Method in the College Classroom & Public High SchoolJan Haag & Carla Hanson

The AWA method works well for writing students of all ages. In this workshop, participants will write to prompts that are inviting to college and high school students. In addition to discussing how this method inspires students, the facilitators will share strategies for managing the inherent difficulties that emerge in classrooms.

Writing Workshop on Memoir CraftMaggie Butler & Tammy Coia

“Perhaps our task, then, is to determine where, in each story, the integrity—the honest heart of the story—rests, while at the same time giving due respect to the events as we remember them.” —Judith Barrington in Writing the Memoir  

We all have a story to tell, and for those of us working on memoirs, the Amherst Writers & Artists method can be the perfect guide for getting to the heart of our memories. Join us as we discuss the unique fit of the AWA method and memoir, share ideas about how best to craft our stories, as well as write in response to prompts designed to draw out the universal from the personal.